Picks and Pans Review: Frantic

updated 03/07/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/07/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

Here's a thriller that follows the rules: Take Paris for a setting. Perfect. Remember Charade? Throw in a big American star, Harrison (Indiana Jones) Ford. Hire a writer-director with a proven track record in suspense, Roman (Rosemary's Baby) Polanski. Supplement with a co-writer who knows his Hitchcock, Gerard (Repulsion) Brach. For spice, between shots of the Seine and the Eiffel Tower add a miniskirted French sexpot the camera can cruise, newcomer Emmanuelle Seigner. Presto, a formula adventure. Easy to sit through and easier to forget. Too much of this film seems done by that kind of rote. Ford, a San Francisco surgeon, arrives in Paris with wife Betty (Tender Mercies) Buckley for a medical convention and vacation (the couple honeymooned in the City of Light 20 years ago). Then poof. Buckley disappears mysteriously while Ford is in the shower. It's a nifty premise, but Polanski quickly cuts to the chase and a chorus of clichés. A frantic Ford—well, he manages at least to look harried—calls on hotel security (they're boobs); he goes to the French police (they're boobier); he rushes to the American embassy (they're the boobiest). Finally he teams up with the sexpot, Seigner, a cute, drug-smuggling cokehead who manages to change into various fetching outfits while Arab terrorists lead them a merry chase around picturesque Paris. Though Polanski conspires often to have both Ford and Seigner stripped of their clothes, it's never for action. Ford loves his kidnapped wife; getting anything more than a passing glance at this French pastry would be likely to kill the audience's rooting interest in rescuing Buckley. That's apparently something Polanski is unwilling to risk after losing his box-office clout with the 1986 fiasco, Pirates. For the first time in a career of taking chances, the director of such films as Chinatown and Knife in the Water is guilty of playing it safe. (R)

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